Tag Archives: meditation

How to Sit for Meditation: Classical Meditation Poses

Meditation Asana

Meditation Asana share two main features; an upright spine and stability. The spine, up right in extension, provides the mental poise needed for sustained concentration. Stability calms all systems and gives us more internal awareness.

In classic meditation poses the legs cross and the thighs form a wide base of support. The hands rest on the knees further helping to stabilize the spine. The individual parts support the total body alignment with minimum effort, yoga. At first the flexibility of your body is the main determining factor for which of the meditation asana you should use, then time. Remember that you should be comfortable in the pose so as to focus easily on your inner environment. Do not sit in a position that irritates or nags you to release the pose. When all of these poses are accessible to you can explore their different qualities.

The Poses here are listed in order of most effort to remain upright and least stable to least effort and most stable, generally…

 Throne Pose

This pose is appropriate for those who cannot sit comfortable on the floor from lack of mobility or injury. It’s also a good way to sit anytime you’re in a chair.  Sit in a chair with both feet flat on the ground hip distance apart, hands on the thighs or in a simple mudra, and spine upright. It has a very attentive feeling but requires the most total body engagement to maintain. Keep focusing to the center of the head and harboring in the axis of your balance for a “light head” feeling. You know I don’t mean that kind!

 Sukhasana – Happy Pose

Sukhasana is a simple cross legged position. Compared to the other cross leg positions it is not very stable and easy to slouch in but generally better than the Throne pose as it opens the hips. It is better suited for short meditation periods like at the beginning and end of Hatha Yoga classes, for those that cannot yet perform the three classical meditation poses, and for casual sitting. For balance, in this, and each cross legged position, you should change the cross of the legs everyday, practice, or time performing the pose. Bring each foot under the knee of the opposite leg and then slightly rocking your hips from side to side roll the flesh of your buttocks out and widen the sit bones. You can do this pose sitting on the edge of a folded blanket or block to elevate the hips and make an easier time of it. This works because the knees drop lower relative to the pelvis and create less pull that would cause the lumbar vertebrae to round and the whole spine to “sink”. Use something that lifts you just enough to make it feel easy to stay with the chest broad and spine upright. This makes a thick blanket best because you can fold it to your needs.

 

Vajrasana – Thunder Bolt Pose

Same as Sukhasana, this asana can be useful for short periods. Long holds can be straining to the knees and ankles for some people and in extreme conditions can result in temporary paralysis of the muscles that flex the foot. If this pose is used with a thick cushion between the calves and thighs, or a small angled bench, it can be one of the most comfortable seated poses as the knees are only partially flexed, pressures in the body are evenly spread out, and it’s easy to maintain an upright spine. The downside is that it’s still not as passively stable as the three classical seated poses, described next.

 Swastikasana – Auspicious Pose

This is the first traditional meditation asana and similar to the next one, Siddhasana, but is less demanding to accomplish. Pull one heel towards the genitals with the sole against the opposite thigh. Pull in the second foot similarly and tucking the toes between the calf and thigh muscles. Each heel will be on the opposite side of the body. You can stay with this pose for a long time. It is rather stable and much more accessible than the next two.

 Siddhasana – Accomplished Pose

This pose is claimed as the best for pranayama, meditation, and realization. It is also said to bring powers or siddhis to the yogi who practices it daily for 12 years. Siddhis are not to be used from a will directed by ego but if they are experienced as divine phenomenon they are fine. Draw one heel inwards and right to the perineum.  Draw the second inwards and over the genitals, stacking the ankles on top of one another and placing the toes between calf and thigh. The backs of both heels should be on the midsagittal plane. There are claims that performed properly this pose helps control sexual energy, and those that also say it can cause male impotence.  This can be caused primarily by the lower heel traumatizing the arteries responsible for dilating during erection. This makes the earnest practice of siddhasana better for celibates. If you still want to explore the pose without this danger and are able to achieve it, try it with modest elevation of about one inch for the hips and you will find everything much nicer yet still subtly subduing.

 Padmasana – Lotus Pose

This is the most stable of the meditation asana. Place the feet on the upper thigh of the opposite leg with the knees close to or touching the floor. The legs are essentially locked into place and this is what makes it possible to use this arrangement in many other poses as well as providing the unparalleled steadiness of this pose. Be especially mindful of the knees when learning padmasana. Do not force you’re feet into the position.  With this and the other classical meditation poses keep your arms lightly extended to your knees with the palms up to steady the spine even further. Use the Jnana mudra with the tip of the thumb and index finger touching and the other three fingers extended straight, touching side by side.

Mula Bandha in Meditation

Mula bandha is used to govern the energy in the body during meditation. It is essentially the fail safe for concentration techniques and can be used as the technique itself. In each of these poses for meditation it will have a slightly different dynamic. The more spread apart the space of the perineum the more consciously you will have to focus to maintain it. It is almost naturally occurring in the propped version of Vajrasana and Siddhasana, with the pressure of the heel stimulating the PC muscles.

It is advised for most practitioners to come to meditation after a full practice of asana and pranayama that gives the energy, alertness, and physical comfort needed to stay focused. Those who can be fresh and focused enough to meditate without preparatory practices may do so but will most likely still benefit from preparing with at least kriya and pranayama. I also recommend unplanned meditations whenever conditions are right.

Namaste

George Anthony

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Filed under Alignment, anatomy, Asana, Meditation, Practice Advise, Yoga

Meditation and the Inward Movement: Nerve Relief and Re-wiring

What is the process of moving towards meditation?

I  say towards, because meditation is an out of body experience which you can not perform. Meditation infers that there is no performer! I suppose it’s easier to say and we all love that, but to say “I meditate”, unless your speaking from the cosmic endless ocean of pure concsciousness-bliss, is just incorrect. You can however prepare yourself for this divinely graced presence by meditation practice. Imagine it’s like going through all the rooms in the gigantic house-of-your-being, slowly you dim the lights and turn off things as you make your way inwards. Walking more quietly and slowly after each light is turned off, you might stub your toe on some left out thought you thought you had put away. Pick it up mindfully. Feel it in your hands and contemplate it’s meaning or use in your life. If it has merit or a place in your heart, place it on a shelf for later. If it’s just chatter or undesired, drop it without remorse into the bin. Going further into your house, you find rooms you may not have known even existed. However, they feel more familiar than any of the previous rooms once you’re in there. You decide to sit down in one. As you sit and become still, you realize you can feel the entire house you’ve already gone through. There it is, perhaps gently vibrating in your awareness. Now, all there is to do is look at the awareness…. of your awareness…. of awarenessthat………….hey! ……this is just an article, snap out of it!

Meditation begins with a quiet place where we can slowly withdraw from activity and stimulation. We should definitely be grateful if we have a handy place like that in our lives. For most people it’s hard to find the ideal spot. Don’t sweat it. Just locate or simulate the most cave like setting you can manage! The whole idea of the cave is that it’s just a hole in a rock with nothing going on in there. You need to cut out the stimulation so you can look and listen internally. It makes pratyahara, sense withdraw, a lot more simple. If you can’t really find such a place conveniently, consider somewhere with consistency in the incoming stimulation.Maybe the non-disruptive sounds of nature.

Another example, I live in Bangkok in a condo. I practice meditation on the roof, 24 stories up. From up there, the bustle of the city sounds mostly distant and homogenous. None of the sounds stand out too drastically. Ideally if there aren’t any buck-wild children around the pool I’ll also practice there. Actually, if I’ve just done a lot of invigorating asana I’ll practice meditation afterwards there because I feel so centered, even if there are all kinds of kids splashing and cahooting. They usually become unusually quiet if they notice me put my head on my feet in Kapotasana anyway.Plus, I think some of them really get it…

Another option you could consider that I just read about is quite extreme. Put on some headphones with static white noise, tape half a ping pong ball over each eye, then put a red light on in front of you. These filters over your senses will eventually become completely  meaningless to your brain and you will be totally internalized. The only problem is you might start to hallucinate wildly after about 30 minutes. Here’s a reasonable compromise…

…obviously for much shorter intervals.

So it’s true, you don’t have to actually sit somewhere quiet for that withdraw. But having a foundational asana and pranayama practice helps to hone your focus a little more close to home. People who are good at relaxing, somewhere quiet, ideally in nature, are doing this all the time too. If it’s somewhere especially peaceful (again, nature) you can even be engaged in simple activity and get a sense of it. It’s a skill of sorts to be able to filter out overload. This is needed from time to time to refresh ourselves and it’s the first step towards meditation. That withdraw however,  can be much more recuperating and the experience much more interesting if we leave out the activity.

So, you’re in your spot, your withdrawn, my next post will be about meditation poses, what next? Watch your breath. If you’re practicing meditation there’s no need to change your breath. Just be still, calm, and watch your breath. Watch the spaces between your breath. Watch the feeling in the spaces between your breaths. All the while, feel everything relaxing and slowing down. Your heart rate slows down. Your mind slows down. Time slows down. Like in the metaphor of the house-of-being if you come across a thought don’t rush yourself to cast it out. Let it be there as a phenomenon. Picture it as an event or energetic happening. If it strikes a chord with you emotionally take consideration to know your genuine feelings and have resolution with the subject before letting it go. Some thoughts come simply as flashes of trivial memories, mostly inconsequential, some come with deep personal meanings and present a great opportunity for establishing a new relationship with that particular subject.

This process of moving inward, let’s you encounter more consciously your usually subconscious behavioral patterns. But it’s still only just on the verge of conscious…initially….I can’t even say what kind of stuff might be waiting for you in there; such fleetingly indescribable whisps of experience, energetic epiphany, maybe even completely disappearing for an instant. Sounds epic right? Well if you don’t experience any of that it’s fine. Don’t give up because like the ashtangi’s love to say “practice and all is coming.”

The practical level of meditation practice is always still there. It’s a great tool. Instead of bang-crashing all around your nervous system with the thought train express, processing the endless bits of information of a day, and reacting to the explosions, bosses getting the cramps, or a damned paper cut…Just sit down sometimes… survey the network of your nearly impossibly miraculous vessel of life in a chilled out way. The more you come here, to your  place inside yourself, perhaps an even sacred place, the more your innate intelligence, beyond the level of your thinking mind, will trim all the hodgepodge non-sense on which you don’t need to be wasting your vital nerve force. And, when you come back from meditation practice you’ll have a new and easier way to be true to you, more streamlined, high-def, and totally astrally experienced.

Tips for Meditation Practice

1. Be comfortable. It’s not going to work if you’re struggling to just be in your body. Upright is preferable to laying down for staying alert. Use big cushions or even one of those cool super space age rubber balls. Actually, you’ll probably have too much fun rolling around and bouncing on it. If you can’t sit upright comfortably for more than a minute lay down for now and practice asana!

2. Relax your eyes and tongue especially. Thoughts are often stimulated by movements of these areas that carry and convey so much information.

3. Watch your breath.

4. Trust yourself! You don’t have to “know” what to do. Sometimes there is a lot of stuff to process before you can come to the clearing of peacefulness.


Namaste.

George Anthony

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Filed under Breathing, Health, Meditation, Practice, Practice Advise, Resting, Yoga

Workshop at Mui Ne Yoga in Vietnam

Here’s the next piece of excitement. Mui Ne is located outside of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. I’ve seen some pictures and the practice space looks beautiful, tucked away as it is out in the jungle.

Pretty isn’t it? Looks like a great spot to feel connected and free. I’m excited to meet the providers of this space and learn about the charity work they are also involved in. Part of the income from the workshop will be going towards their karma yoga. Here is the website for Mui Ne Yoga Den and FB page.

Of the four classes one of them will be taught by my friend Quyen. It is because of her and my friend Lee that I’ll be able to make this visit to Mui Ne to teach. Thanks so much you two.

Come learn to enjoy your perfect practice!

 

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Meditating in the New Year at a Thai Temple

It’s good to start anything new with clarity. Last night I met Adrian and Shiang at Wat Yannawa, one of the many amazing examples of Thai temple architecture.

This is a view close to where I was sitting in the grass, doing some long forward folds to bide the time. As the new year came closer, throngs of people moved up the stairs towards the meeting halls for a led chanting meditation. By 11:00 Adrian and Shiang appeared. They were slightly bewildered as they had just gone to scope out the scene up those stairs. I went to check it out briefly for myself. Upon reaching the first landing, a wave of hot, humid air radiated me. Both upper floors were overflowing with people seated on the floor, hands in wai, chanting with the monks, some on their gadgets. I came back and we talked for another moment or so until Shiang spontaneously decided it was time and adopted Lotus pose. Adrian and I followed suit and we were a circle of focus.

I moved through many thoughts and energies while sitting there, considering my intention for this next journey around the sun. Ideas about future goals, lifestyle pursuits, relationships, and career ambitions rifled through my mind.

Feeling the time draw ever nearer, I needed to clear away the clutter and come to something simpler; giving. There are many avenues and chances to give. Sometimes giving is respecting someones wishes and giving them space. Sometimes it is being there for them when they need a compassionate friend. Sometimes it is coming from one’s own hardwork so that you may provide for others. I thought about all the people most dear to me and how I could best serve them. I thought about this world’s people, and extended my intention broader.  I began to add a visual element by imagining my intention as a pure energy, moving from my heart, through the hearts of Adrian and Shiang, and then circling back to me. After a few rounds it could extend farther. It spread like an electrical current through the mass of conductive participants, which had now sprawled out across the temple grounds. In the last few seconds of 2010 I gathered this metaphorical energy, multiplied by those around me, into a pure ball of light in the midst of our circle. Hearing the first fireworks launched, I sent it skywards declaring my intention to all beings.

We opened our eyes and cheered the New Year. Adrian said “I love the contrast. Inner-work and glitter.”

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Filed under ไทย, Journal, Meditation, Temple, Yoga